Anonymous takes on Boston Children's Hospital in #opJustina

Filed Under: Denial of Service, Featured, Security threats

AnonymousSince 14 February 2013, 15-year-old Justina Pelletier has been held in custody as a ward of the state in Massachusetts, at the order of a Boston hospital that decided her illness was all in her head, aggravated by what they perceived to be medical abuse doled out by her parents.

The public and patients' rights advocates have been outraged over Justina's ordeal, which has entailed strictly limited visitation with her parents, restriction of discussions of her medical issues in front of Justina, plus a gag rule imposed on her father (he broke it in order to tell the media her story; contempt charges were subsequently filed against him).

Last week, on Wednesday, 23 April, that outrage rose to a head and burst into cyber warfare when people affiliating themselves with the Anonymous hacktivist label launched #opJustina.

Anonymous put out a video (YouTube) demanding the girl's immediate release, calling for people to send protests to the judge involved in her case, calling for the hospital to fire the physician who diagnosed medical child-abuse charges against the Pelletiers, and publishing what the group claims are Justina's actual medical orders.

From a manifesto published by Anonymous:

To the Boston Children’s Hospital why do you employ people that clearly do not put patients first? We demand that you terminate Alice W. Newton from her employment or you to shall feel [all grammar and punctuation irregularities sic] the full unbridled wrath of Anonymous. Test us and you shall fail.

It wasn't the first threat.

Anonymous claimed responsibility several weeks ago for an attack on the website of Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, the Framingham residential facility where Justina has been living since January under state custody.

Wayside last week said it had experienced limited disruptions of its website.

Boston Children's HospitalMultiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks hit Boston Children's Hospital over the weekend of 19 April and on into last week.

According to the Boston Globe, as of Wednesday, neither the hospital's patient data nor internal systems were compromised.

But the hospital did shut down some pages, the Boston Globe reported.

The pages' shutdown resulted in some patients and medical personnel not being able to access their online accounts, check appointments, or access test results and other case information.

The Globe notes that there's no direct evidence linking Anonymous to the DDoS attacks against the hospital.

By as of Friday morning, YourAnonNews - which has 1.24 million Twitter followers - posted an update urging Anonymous members to back off from the attack, given the nature of the organisation they were cyber-beating up:

...a plea that was met with Anonymous-esque scorn such as this:

According to her family Justina had been receiving treatment for mitochondrial disease at Tufts Medical Center. When she came down with the flu, Tufts doctors advised Justina's parents to take her to Boston Children's Hospital.

There, Dr. Newton decided that Justina had been misdiagnosed. She really had somatoform, a psychiatric disorder that causes physical ailments, the physician decided.

Her parents protested a plan to remove Justina from her treatments for mitochondrial disorder in favor of psychiatric treatments.

When they tried to discharge her to take her back to Tufts, they were slapped with a 51A - a report of alleged physical or emotional abuse.

Currently, signs are pointing to Justina being returned to her home state of Connecticut soon.

A state health official on Friday penned a letter supporting Justina's return to Connecticut and saying that the "groundwork" for a "reunification plan" has been laid, as The Blaze reports.

Some state lawmakers have also petitioned that the Pelletiers's daughter be returned to them, while family advocates have called upon Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to address the case as well.

Did Anonymous succeed in calling attention to Justina's plight? Or is progress being made simply because the far less showy, dull, mostly drama-free wheels of bureaucracy are finally turning in a different direction?

What do you think? Have the wheels of progress turned because Anonymous put its shoulder to the task?

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20 Responses to Anonymous takes on Boston Children's Hospital in #opJustina

  1. john wright · 533 days ago

    Until the laws are changed to reflect the seriousness of computer crime re: hacking, DOS attacks etc the kids,
    and adults from groups such as Anonymous won't stop.
    Examples should be made.

  2. libraryPops · 533 days ago

    There is not enough information here to even begin to determine which side is correct. What are the qualifications of the doctors involved? Has a third doctor or team of doctors not associated with either side been consulted? Does the law require the Boston Hospital to prove the need to invoke the 51A? The questions go on. In any case, action should have been taken long ago to settle custody/control and settle this poor child's status. She is the one now being abused by both sides.

    • emailNotProvided · 533 days ago

      That's the kicker - Children's Hospital's official care directive explicitly forbids a second opinion from an outside source, regardless of the neutrality and ability of that source.

      • And that's one of the things that lawmakers need to address, the fact that a hospital can take a child way from their family by filing false child abuse allegations just because the parents want a second opinion is very disturbing (if outright illegal), but overall there needs to be a complete investigation into how certain children's hospital's and DCF/CPS operate (which is essentially "legal" human trafficking in a good number of cases)

        Here are some laws that I think need to be put into place to help reign these companies in.

        1. Make it illegal for children's hospitals to forbid second opinions with a very hefty fine for each violation.

        2. Require that the DCF/CPS actually do a thorough investigation into child abuse reports and the parents before taking a child away from their parents.

        As long as such laws remain nonexistent children's hospitals (that kidnap children like bostons) and the DCF/CPS will continue to get away with this kind of crap.

      • Elizabeth Marcano · 530 days ago

        That is utter crap. As the spouse of a Children's Hospital physician, it is most certainly NOT part of the official care directive to forbid second opinions. Physicians get second (and third for that matter) opinions all the time. Where in the world do you get this garbage...

  3. Jim · 533 days ago

    I don't agree with hackers attacking a hospital. However, this is a case where the hospital AND judge look to be in the wrong.

    How in the world can the judge accept as binding a psychiatric diagnosis over a physical diagnosis? That situation should, at a minimum, demand an independent opinion. Psychiatric issues are by definition subjective. There must be compelling evidence to make one, and all they have is the lack of evidence.

    There's more here than meets the eyes, and it doesn't pass the smell test. It is wrong to hack a hospital, but SOMETHING needed to happen.

  4. Terri · 533 days ago

    There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that somatoform disorder exists anywhere except in the minds of the psychiatrists who invented it.

  5. alpha4centauri · 532 days ago

    It's entirely possible that she has a physical disorder AND a psychiatric disorder. Having a kid with a chronic illness is tough for any family, and when they're 15, it really can come to a head. It's common for one kid to have both real seizures and faked seizures, for instance. If there are lawyers who want to help the family and the girl by working pro bono, and if there are concerned citizens who want to contribute to cover those lawyers' expenses in preparing a case, that would be great. But because of confidentiality rules, you simply can't know exactly what's going on. All you can do is try to make sure the family has the ability to defend their rights.

    • JustNO · 531 days ago

      She does NOT have a psychiatric disorder. This is not in question. She has mitochondrial disease, and this hospital should be taken down for what they've done to her. It's only because of doctors' attitudes and complete ignorance towards RARE diseases and conditions. I suffered for many years and labeled until I was finally diagnosed with a rare condition. It could have saved me a lot of pain and degeneration. The problem is the gap in medical professionals' knowledge and a health care system that is not interested in helping people who do not fit nicely in to a diagnostic box. It's a broken system. God forbid you have somethng complicated that can't be diagnosed with a few simple tests and treated with a pill. It's sick when patients know more about their condition than doctors. These parents did NOTHING WRONG.

  6. Citizen · 532 days ago

    I am in complete support and agreement with the cyber terror attack. I hope they dismantle this hospital, and I hope they dismantle the EMR (electronic medical record) that is also in violation of our freedoms and is, in fact, a dangerously insecure system already. It is a great thing to expose what will happen in the event that EMR is breached, as it can be and will be. I hope all patients of BC find care elsewhere while this facility is utterly ruined. Thank you, Anonymous, hats off to you. BTW I am a physician.

  7. Reggin · 531 days ago

    I'm sure anonymous will be proven wrong because they are always wrong.The only question is when, because for anonymous failure should be enjoyed like a fine wine, that way when the cops finally pick up anon and throw them in prison to have their ass pounded by bubba I can laugh about how anonymous was once made up of more than a bunch of HYPOCRITES that try to bring accountability unto others while avoiding accountability themselves.

    • Bobby Newmark · 531 days ago

      What for one is a terrorist for the other is a freedom fighter. You base your opinion of Anons being always in the wrong based on the facts provided to you by the gov? The same gov that told you about WMDs in Iraq, or about not collecting any data about it's own citizens? The same gov that can kill any of its citizens on President's order? Some source of facts... Everyone (including Anons) will be judged by history.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.